12 months ago I was in Bolivia, helping Edwin Fernandez at El Dorado Golf and Country Club with his junior clinics.
Edwin and I had been introduced via Yvonne Sita, an employee at Glencoe Golf and Country Club, in Calgary, and within days of us connecting I had arranged to head to Bolivia to help Edwin teach golf to underprivileged and at risk children in Bolivia.
I spent 9 weeks in the country. It was quite difficult at times, considering the politics, the attitudes towards golf, and even the occasional danger to my personal safety. You can read more about last year through a number of blogs that I wrote while there:
- Flight of Fairways
- Connectivity Capers
- Santa Cruzing
- Hard Yardage
- Miss Persistence
- Golf Springs Eternal
- La Paz of the Puzzle
- Finding Tiffany
- Getting Amongst It
I wrote quite a lot, didn't I?!
During my time in Bolivia we were able to get some of our juniors entered into the first junior tournament of the year and I was delighted to see Ale, our 15 year old cadet finish in 4th position. 8 year old Elias also performed very well in his first ever tournament and improved his score by 26 strokes from the first round to the third (and last) round. Not bad at all!
Our social media coverage meant that we were recognised for our work by other golfers in Bolivia and were delighted when one gentleman, Rodrigo Cambruzzi, reached out to us to donate some his son’s used golf equipment. He has since made this an annual thing which is fantastic for our Bolivian cadets.
When I left Bolivia, I told the kids I would do my best to raise the funds needed to enter them in all the tournaments for 2017, but was only able to raise enough for them to play in two out of the remaining five. I reached out to Glencoe GCC and they generously donated 9 sets of used clubs to be shipped to Bolivia for the children.
Given the difficulties of shipping to Bolivia the Federacion of Boliviana de Golf had us ship them to a storage facility in Miami before being consolidated and forwarded on. In the end, it took close to 10 months before they were delivered into the hands of our cadets!
I was able to send another care package to the Bolivian juniors and unlike the first, which was a box full of used range balls and a few dozen new balls, this time we sent hundreds of balls, t shirts, hats, shoes, wet weather clothing, club covers, towels and lots of tees.
As a golfer you would expect something like tees to be easily available, however for our cadets in Bolivia they were sharing a tee between four kids as they played practice rounds! The look of devastation if one of them broke it gave me quite an appreciation of how we take the little things in golf, like tees, for granted.
The program has been working. Other mothers in the El Almendro Community could see the improvement in the kids, from respectfulness, to listening, and personal hygiene, so they asked if their children could join our program too!
Edwin recently wrote to us. He had started the project to share his passion for golf and help teach the values associated with the game to at risk children. There had been trouble with violence, delinquency and alcoholism in children in the area and getting them out golfing and practicing everyday has completely changed their focus. Edwin wrote,
“Dear Tiffany, when you arrived to Bolivia the last year you changed the view of the Bolivian golfers; a lot of people think that GOLF is only for rich people. The Fairways Fund showed us the difference that everyone in the world can play golf with no borders. As the kids trained “THE GOLF BALL DON’T DISCRIMINATE, IT JUST WANT TO BE HITTEN WELL”. With your help we played the Tournaments into the GOLF BOLIVIAN FEDERATION all 2017, we hope to participate on 2018 if God give us the possibility.”
Having started a nonprofit from scratch, there have been many obstacles and challenges, so receiving a letter from the other side of the world thanking us for our work and knowing that we are helping to improve the lives of these children through golf proves that we are achieving exactly what we set out to do.
Given that the majority of our funding had come from my credit cards and working as a waitress (and my limit has been reached), we need financial assistance to get these kids back out playing golf for the 2018 season. Neither I, nor Jeremy are paid for the work we do.
We have Awesome 4somes available for sale on our website, so you get an awesome round of golf, while at the same time, helping to get the children out on a fairway.
Alternatively, we have sponsorship options from as little little as $5 a month, up to $50. Single donations can also be made.
Please share our story with your golf friends and help us give these children the opportunity to change their lives through golf. I really feel our "Golf without bounds" mission statement is epitomised in our Bolivian program. I will leave you with Edwin’s final words,
“Thank you once again for your kindness, generosity, time and effort that you both put into changing the future of our children. You changed our lives for better. Words cannot express how I feel. I DO THANK YOU!!!”